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ARSCLIST  January 2009

ARSCLIST January 2009

Subject:

Re: OTR online?

From:

"Steven C. Barr" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 7 Jan 2009 22:06:31 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (138 lines)

See end of message...
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Charles A. Richardson" <[log in to unmask]>
> Hi Steve, Bob,  Anthony, Robert, et all.
> I bit more info on real hi end AM and FM radio performance from the  
> Golden Age.   By the end of the 1930s around 1940, E. H.. Scott  Labs  
> (no relation to H. H. Scott) was making some extraordinary radios.  AM  
> could have wide bandwidth when circumstances permitted.  In these  
> earlier times, the AM band was not cluttered with a lot of stations  
> which tended to interfere with each other.  In those days there were  
> fewer stations with lots of power and clear channels.  They also  
> usually were limited to daytime operation because interference went up  
> at night due to atmospheric conditions.
> When the AM band got crowded (in the 1960s?  or later), receivers had  
> to have 9KHz or 10KHz audio filters to help reduce increasing man made  
> noise issues and station reception interference.  AM noise in car  
> radios from the ignition systems raised havoc with reception, not to  
> mention the mechanically noisy acoustic car environment.   When the  
> filters went in and the AM band got crowded,  then received AM  
> fidelity really went down even though the AM transmitter could still  
> transmit wide band audio.   Also in earlier times, there was a real  
> emphasis on quality.  Later on, music sources had their sound  
> manipulated by processors in the recording studio and also more signal  
> processing at the broadcast station to be louder and also attempt to  
> reduce various noise issues and sound well on cheap AM radios of  
> limited performance.  Sound quality music reproduction reception moved  
> to FM for obvious reasons.
> Back to the story.  In 1940, E H. Scott, who called themselves 'The  
> Stradivarius of Radio Receivers',  made a "Philharmonic Receiver"   
> that had 5 bands, including the new
> Armstrong FM on its original frequency band of 41 to 50 Mhz.  The set  
> had 33 of the large  big pin tubes and came with a 5 year parts  
> warranty.   The frequency response of the
> AM section was the same as the FM section, 30 to 15KHz.   It had  
> variable IF Bandwidth to adjust for reception conditions.  The AM  
> antenna was adjustable for gain, nulling,
> pick up pattern, and was highly shielded against local interference.   
> There were tube voltage regulators to keep the tuner from drifting off  
> station.  One could order 8 different cabinets,
> woods, colors, etc.  and there were options of speakers, amplifiers,  
> etc.  The circuits had multiple Mixers, RF amplifiers, IF Amplifiers,   
> Detectors, AGC, AVC, Tuning Eyes, an 8 tube Audio Amplifier, Noise  
> suppressor for suppressing 78 record surface noise, separate power  
> supplies with high filtration, dual tuning speeds, etc.,  a 4 speaker  
> option, a sensitivity of
> .5 microvolts, logging scale, muting between stations, etc.   It used  
> dual chassis construction of 14 gage chrome plated steel.   If memory  
> serves, In 1940 this radio cost between $3000.00 to $4000.00!    Think  
> of that in today's dollars.   It was the best of the best.  Many  
> musicians and those with deep pockets owned these E.H. Scott sets.  It  
> was one of the few
> equipment items that got a rave review from Toscanini who said "Never  
> would I have believed it was  possible to attain such marvelous  
> reproduction... the quality of tone is mellow,
> clear, beautiful, and not confused as in other receivers which I have  
> had before yours.  To you assuredly belongs the credit of having  
> produced a miracle of perfection."
> Then World War II put it all on hold due to the war effort, etc.   
> After the war,  the FM frequency band was changed from the better  
> lower 41 to 51 MHz band to the higher current 88 to 108 Mhz band due  
> to the Armstrong and RCA (Sarnoff) patent battle in which Sarnoff got  
> the FCC to change the FM band spectrum location.  This FM band  
> frequency change ruined Armstrong financially as all the Scott FM  
> receivers and his FM transmission equipment did not work on the new FM  
> frequencies.  The personal stress and financial loss was so great that  
> it was a substantial factor in Armstrong committing suicide.  His wife  
> kept up the patent legal case and decades later won against RCA.  Also  
> eventually Armstrong got very deserved recognition from broadcast  
> engineers for his many contributions to broadcasting.  The change in  
> FM bands hurt Scott  financially in that a lot of  their expensive  
> equipment now had a useless FM band.  I think that E. H. Scott changed  
> hands and its name changed to Radio Craftsman and then later  
> Ravenswood which eventually had a plant in my home town.
> I clearly recall when young of an extraordinary broadcast I heard on  
> one of these Scott Philharmonic radios.    A station got hold of an  
> English Decca FFRR full range 78 recording that had a disc frequency  
> response out to 15KHz for a 78 record!   This was played on a wideband  
> AM station and I heard it on the Scott set.  Superb sound, and a  
> stunning experience I will
> not forget.   Later on, I got a newer E. H. Scott receiver made in  
> 1947 which had the new FM Band, and also a very good AM section, but  
> it was not as good as the older Scott Philharmonic.  This 1947 radio  
> is now 62 years old and still going strong.  No problems or bad parts,  
> other than a few tubes, in all these years.  They do not make them  
> like that anymore.
> In the early 1950s stereo recording began and prerecorded tapes came  
> to market.  Later, about 1958, stereo records came out.  Then  
> broadcasts started to be updated.  They started with simulcasts which  
> would broadcast TV programs and then feed the local FM station the   
> mono wideband audio for better sound quality while one watched the  
> performance on TV.
> Then stereo simulcasts started with one channel on an FM station and  
> the other channel on AM.   The FM was better, but the AM could still  
> be excellent if the receiver was good and the AM station took out the  
> signal processing.  I set up my Scott for the AM and used something  
> else for the FM.  The AM quality and stereo sound was excellent. There  
> were no crosstalk
> problems or high frequency birdies.    Then the effort to make FM  
> itself into stereo.  The technically better system was by Crosby, but  
> the Crosby may have had mono compatibility issues, and they did not  
> have influence with the FCC.  Instead, the Zenith GE FM stereo system  
> was chosen which had mono compatibility, but was technically inferior  
> in stereo with more noise, a filtered bandwidth reduction from 20Khz  
> to 15KHz, the 19Khz pilot tone birdie issue, SCA interference, etc.    
> Zenith GE Stereo FM  had influence with the FCC which decided the  
> issue of  broadcast standards at the time.
> Before 4th grade I would build tube crystal radios with cat whiskers  
> and also collected old radios, etc.  By 4th grade I became a Ham and  
> Stereo enthusiast.  I made my own Ham radio, wound the coils, did all  
> the metal work, hand wiring, etc, This project  took two years to  
> finish.  I continued into the kit era. I do miss the fun of making  
> things from kits, but Heath, etc are long gone.
> AM died on the vine as far as music and sound quality was concerned.   
> It took decades for AM stereo to be developed. By then, it was too  
> little and too late.  FM could be a lot better than it presently is,  
> but this has been discussed before.
> A few memories of older times for those who may not know.
> 
First...the problem with the AM band is that these frequencies will "skip"
via the ionosphere...but ONLY after the sun goes down! This is the
reason for "clear channel" frequencies (NOT the corporation...!!)...they
might have had several daytime stations, but only ONE (sometimes two,
one on each coast...?!) after sundown. There were also a few frequencies
(1230 was one) which were assigned to low-power (1KW or less) "local"
stations on a 24-hour basis...usually one heard chaos there, but SOMETIMES
one station would rise above the chaos long enough that DX'ers (like me)
could identify it!

Second, I own an E.H. Scott 800-B, which is now being stored by my
brother in West Allis, Wisconsin. Was lucky enough to acquire it for $35
from the chap who was settling the estate of a late Peoria County (Ill's.)
sheriff (he had held the job back when he could make a LOT of "under
the table"money (aka "GRAFT!") from folks who supplied gambling and
other not-quite-legal entertainments...and as a result could afford the
$1600 radio...!!

Steven C. Barr

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